Attending or not attending work
We will now be working into our summer holiday. Some people have already booked holidays. What happens now?
Kirsty Williams has given assurance that anyone with pre-booked holidays should not feel obliged to return for the extra four days. It should be noted that Kirsty Williams is not the Employer and therefore we recommend that any member that has a holiday booked raise this with their Head Teacher and obtain agreement not to attend during the additional period.
What happens to Teachers or teaching assistants who cannot attend school due to ongoing childcare responsibilities? Will they continue to receive full pay?
If teachers are experiencing childcare issues due to the Covid-19 pandemic, they should be afforded the opportunity to work from home and this should be discussed with your headteacher, however you may need to take carer or parental leave if you are unable to return to work. Please note that the Welsh Government have offered free childcare places for key worker children.
What will the rules be for teachers who live with someone who is shielding? Will they be allowed to stay at home or required to work in school, in a non-contact role?
Children and teachers who are shielding or at more risk, including pregnant workers, are not expected to return this term. This also applies for pupils and teachers who live with relatives who are shielding. You may be required to show your Shielding letter to the head. If you do not have a shielding letter and believe you should have one, please contact your GP.
We recommend that you draw your Headteacher’s attention to your personal position by utilising the Vulnerable Workers’ document attached to the FAQs. We suggest that you email your Headteacher requesting that you are deemed able to continue to work from home because of your family member shielding.
If your request to continue to work from home is turned down, please come back to us at that point.
Will there be advice or guidelines for the return to work of pregnant teachers or their partners who are not officially a shielding group at present?
The Welsh Government has stated that pregnant women are specifically advised to work from home after 28 weeks’ gestation. Prior to this, pregnant women can be in work but must adhere to strict social distancing and hygiene policy. Partners of pregnant women can return but again, must ensure they remain safe.
Please can we have clarification over the position of clinically vulnerable staff - i.e. those people normally in receipt of a flu jab (over 70s, diabetics, asthmatics etc)?
The NEU position is that those who fall within the vulnerable category should work from home. This is supported by the Welsh Local Government Association. Our advice is to consult the Vulnerable Workers Guidance Document and send the model letter in that to your Headteacher.
Will staff due to retire at the end of term, go on maternity leave on fixed-term contracts ending in August or moving to a school outside of Wales in September be paid for the extra week they will be expected work in the summer term?
The School Teachers Pay and Conditions Document provides that a full time teacher must be available to work for 195 days each year. Teachers have been available for work, whether this is in the hubs or working from home throughout the Covid 19 crisis and therefore many will have already worked the required 195 days by 20th July. It is therefore the union’s view that teachers cannot be required to work the additional 4 days up to and including 24th July.
In the majority of cases, teachers who choose to work the additional 4 days will be compensated by an additional week’s leave in October. For teachers whose employment will terminate on 31st August, should they be required to work the additional 4 days they ought to be remunerated for this period and this needs to be discussed with your employer.
Will teachers and support staff receive antibody tests and results before schools re-open on 29 June? Do we know what the mechanism and process is for delivering this to the education workforce in Schools and FE?
Welsh Government have confirmed that testing will be taking place and we continue to seek further clarification from them on this.
Where does the responsibility for risk assessment in this situation ultimately end up with? The Headteacher, Governing Body, Local Authority or Welsh Government?
This will depend on the educational establishment but in a school, we would expect the Headteacher to carry out any risk assessment with appropriate advice and guidance from the Local Authority. The use of individual and organisational risk assessments at a local authority level must be used to inform PPE. Risk assessments should include droplet and contact infection risks. Risk assessments should already exist for learners with more complex needs, including those with emotional and behavioural needs and should be updated as a matter of priority in light of changes to provision. Please note that the NEU have their own checklist risk assessment for each sector on the website for your use.
Can we have clear guidance on how to deal with behavioural issues such as fighting, spitting etc? Will PPE be provided?
This will need to be fully discussed and agreed with the school’s SLT as part of any return to work plan, regarding the expectations of pupils, staff members and SLT in regard to behaviour issues and how to deal with them. There will need to be an agreed protocol for dealing with continual and deliberate breaching of the social distancing guidelines and we would expect SLT to take full responsibility for dealing with serious issues such as deliberate spitting etc. that would put staff and other pupils at an increased risk. A risk assessment should be carried out on any learners that are known to pose a foreseeable risk in this regard that should identify any requirement for PPE to be made available. Further information has been provided by the Health and Safety Executive.
All staff should understand how to put on or remove PPE in the right order, safely dispose of the waste and use correct hand hygiene steps to reduce the risk of onward transmission of infection. Further guidance is available in Appendix 6 of the Infection Prevention and Control for Childcare Settings Guidance.
In any case, hand washing should always be practiced before putting on and after removing PPE.Schools and settings should contact their local authority to obtain PPE to cover the above.
The Minister for Health and Social care made a statement on 9th June 2020 setting out the latest advice.
My primary school is a Victorian building with narrow corridors and small classrooms. I am very anxious about returning to my Foundation Phase pupils, as I believe that social distancing will be impossible, given the age of the children and the confines of the building. In this case, should we not be issued with PPE?
We believe that PPE may be required in certain cases, where there are pupils with underlying health conditions/ behavioural needs. For example, for those pupils who are unable to control spitting and coughing. This is most likely to be the case in a special school, or similar setting.
Your school will need to undertake a full Risk Assessment prior to reopening. The SMT will need to consider the fact that classrooms are small and corridors are narrow as part of the risk assessment. This could mean that it is not practical for the school to have a third of the pupils back at any one time.
Will there be money available for the additional cleaners that will be necessary with more schools open – or is there an expectation that teachers and LSAs will do this in between sessions?
The Local Authority and schools will need to prepare a plan to ensure appropriate interim and deep cleaning procedures to ensure the health and safety of staff and pupils. Local authorities need to work closely with their schools to ensure the effective supply of hygiene and cleaning products. This will need to account for availability and the prioritisation of equipment. Cleaning staff should fully understand the cleaning requirements. Local authorities should work with schools and settings to ensure that cleaning staff have appropriate training, products and equipment available to them in a timely manner.
Staff who do not have cleaning in their job descriptions are not responsible for the cleaning of schools. As for setting up of their school, that should be considered in terms of what is being asked and in consultation with your workplace rep/s. We understand that funding has been provided to schools for cleaning.
How should schools manage the transportation of children?
The Welsh Government has acknowledged that transportation is an issue. They are asking parents to assist in transportation or to travel actively to school e.g. walking, cycling to school or college. This will allow Welsh Government to prioritise transport where it’s more difficult. For SEN pupils, schools will need to identify the children who will attend and work with the Local Authority to decide which transport method is best for transporting the pupils that are returning to school.
Do schools have to supply hot food as normal to pupils or should they all bring packed lunch?
Welsh Government Guidance
Depending on the timetable, schools and settings may judge that lunch does not need to be provided or that learners should bring their own lunches to minimise the risk of transmission. Schools or settings may need to provide lunch but this depends on the timetable. Movement between rooms should be kept to a minimum. If deemed practicable, meals may be best served in learners’ classrooms. If dining rooms can accommodate the social distancing requirements then they may be used though use should be staggered. Areas should be cleaned according to guidelines after eating. Staff should ensure that social distancing is maintained at mealtimes. If learners are eating in their classroom, tables should be removed of clutter, disinfected, and visually clean before providing the meal/snack. If there are any concerns, schools and settings should seek the advice of their local Environmental Health team. Staff and learners should also wash their hands before and after serving and eating food.
Local authorities and headteachers should work with food providers and suppliers to ensure rigour in hygiene, including preparation, consumption and disposal. Food must not be shared. Any snacks should be separated clearly to avoid this. Lunch and break times could be staggered to support social distancing.
Schools should of course deliver meals based on the Healthy Eating in Schools (Nutritional Standards and Requirements) (Wales) Regulations 2013. Those meals should be designed to reduce access to food and drink high in fat, sugar and salt, and increase the take-up of fruit and vegetables and oily fish. Other food and drink provided during the day should also be based on the food and drink requirements of those Regulations.
What precautions will be in place for ethnic minority staff? Especially as they will be in enclosed spaces with the children? If they are primary teachers what precautions will be in place for the instance where social distancing doesn’t occur?
This should form part of the workplace risk assessment. Black educators can fill in the model letter to send to their employer:
Please see our vulnerable workers guidance document. Due to the increase in risk our advice is that black workers should be offered the same protection as those in the vulnerable category and be able to work from home.
What is the current situation regarding toilet facilities, breaks and use of kitchen facilities?
Social distancing government advice should be adhered to which is a legal requirement in Wales. A risk assessment needs to be undertaken of all communal areas in workplaces. The number of staff using a communal area and toilets should form part of any such risk assessment.
One toilet would not be sufficient for 30 staff even in ‘normal conditions’. It is likely that risk assessments will identify that more portable toilets will have to be supplied for staff and pupils.
The relevant legislation is the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992. Regulation 20, (The number of people at work shown in column 1 refers to the maximum number likely to be in the workplace at any one time)
Number of toilets and washbasins for mixed use (or women only):
Number of people at workNumber of toiletsNumber of washbasins
Toilets used by men only:
Number of men at workNumber of toiletsNumber of urinals
Government guidance on social distancing should be adhered to. These issues should be considered as factors in the formation of a risk assessment. As an employer they must so far as is reasonably practicable, provide adequate and appropriate welfare facilities for employees while they are at work.
A worker is entitled to an uninterrupted break of 20 minutes when daily working time is more than six hours. It should be a break in working time and should not be taken either at the start, or at the end, of a working day.
Staff will need training on new ways of working in school. Should this be done before 29 June or should it be part of the re-opening on 29 June?
The work-place rep/s should be part of any discussion in relation to training required for our members. This should form part of the workplace risk assessments. See advice on distance learning.
Does the up to one third of pupils include nursery pupils for whom education is not yet statutory?
As with all pupils of a younger age, the risk of them not being able to maintain social distancing should form part of every school risk assessment. The decision to allow nursery pupils to return should be a matter for each Local Authority to determine. The school needs to take these numbers into account when calculating their maximum 1/3 of pupils within the school.
Are Key Workers children expected to stay in their own separate bubble?
Welsh Government state they would expect children attending hubs provision to move back to their own school or setting. The expectation is that schools and settings should continue to make additional provision for those learners, alongside the learning that they are entitled to for the remainder of the summer term. There is no expectation for them to be in a separate bubble.
What hours and how many days are the children expected to be in school for?
Welsh Government Guidance states that schools will need to work with local authorities to determine how many learners and staff they can accommodate at any one time, and therefore how long learners can attend for. It is critical that schools and settings work with their local authority to understand capacity: how many learners that can be accommodated at any one time, while allowing for appropriate distancing. The wellbeing and workload of staff should be considered in regard to this matter.
What checks will be made in classrooms in terms of ventilation, open windows, cleanliness and entrances/exits?
This will be covered by the NEU Checklist that reps will use when consulting on the School’s Risk Assessment.
Will there be key worker provision open during summer holidays and are staff expected to volunteer?
It is the Union’s position that staff will not be expected to work in the provision throughout the summer holidays. They of course should be paid accordingly if they wish to volunteer but cannot be compelled to do so.
If the 5 NEU safety tests are not met, will the Welsh Government consider not reopening schools more widely in 29th June?
The Welsh Government have confirmed that they will be fully considering the advice of the Chief Medical Officer on this issue. If the advice is that it is not safe to reopen schools, the union will push for schools to remain closed. The Education Minister has advised that the reopening of schools is not expected to continue in a linear trajectory. She would not hesitate to reverse the decision to open schools if she received scientific and medical advice that the reopening of schools is no longer safe. She reiterated that the safety of staff and learners were her primary priority.
Our school is attempting to redeploy support staff to clean the school. Can they do this?
If you have a contract as a cover supervisor or any other support staff within the school you cannot be redeployed for cleaning duties unless it is contained within your current job description. Also any change in job description would need to be consulted fully with the Trade Unions. If extra cleaning staff is required then Local Authorities should recruit professional cleaners asap or offer more hours to those already employed as many of the products used in the deep-cleaning and interim cleaning requires careful handling and, in some cases, training. Members employed as support staff should carry on working to their usual job description and offer to assist in any working from home duties if unable to return to work as in the shielding or vulnerable categories.
Working entitlements in school or home
Teachers will be expected to do classroom teaching as well as distant learning so how will staff be able to manage the workload?
The Education Minister has said we need to think really carefully about what education is going to look like in this time. She acknowledged that we are going to have to find a new normal. There will be a need to plan for a blended learning approach that minimises the disruption to learning. There should be ongoing discussions between staff and SLT on workload issues. Quite clearly, teachers cannot be expected to undertake multiple home learning tasks with a full class timetable.
What are the expectations for a part-time teacher?
Part time teachers should carry out the same duties as full-time teachers but on a pro rata basis according to their contractual obligations.
What will specific teaching and learning look like for children staying at home when schools reopen?
The Welsh Government have said they are looking for a blended learning approach which will involve online learning. All safety protocols, rotas and changes to normal duties should be negotiated rather than imposed. Staff working in school or at home can only carry out a reasonable workload which should be discussed collectively. Staff should not be asked to carry out duties which are clearly outside the scope of their job description and employment contract.. Schools cannot seek to work normally. The main focus must be on ensuring that children are safe and supported. Staff will have demands and pressures of their own, such as childcare. Staff who are in school cannot support home learning at the same time. The normal curriculum has been suspended to allow for the wellbeing of learners to take priority. This will include for instance online learning resources uploaded using Hwb for pupils to carry out at home.
Please could you clarify the situation with regard to Agency Supply Teachers, following Kirsty Williams' announcement that schools will re-open from 29th June? Will agencies be allowed to stop furloughing us?
Supply teachers should confirm that they are available for work and will consider offers in line with their own safety following the NEU’s advice on vulnerable workers if this applies. The Furlough scheme is still running post 29 June and if there is no work available due to coronavirus or you are not able to work due to shielding the agency should still Furlough you. Agencies should not threaten to end a supply members furlough if they refuse an assignment on the grounds of health and safety and then being a shielding or vulnerable member.
What to do if you think your school isn't safe
What would happen if there is a confirmed case of COVID19 in a school?
If it is a member of staff they should be sent home immediately to self-isolate. An urgent risk assessment will need to be carried out to assess who this member of staff has been in contact with recently and these members of staff should go home and self-isolate
With pupils same assessment takes place and pupil that is confirmed should not be on the premises and self-isolate and all pupils and staff that have been in recent contact with this pupil to not attend school and self-isolate. The school should contact the Local Authority and Public Health Wales for further advice.
Specific sectors advice
What about FE Colleges?
Further Education colleges are ensuring that appropriate measures are being taken to re-open for face-to-face learning from 15 June. They will prioritise those students requiring licence to practice assessments and vulnerable learners. This follows close working with Government and the joint trade unions.
Learners attending alternative pathways (work based learning, home / community tuition) haven't had the same clarity as schools with regards to June 29th return. What about these learners?
Work Based Learning Providers will open 15th June. The Welsh Government has published separate guidance for this. Regarding home and individual tutors, these would be subject to risk assessments for each individual learner. The Education Minister will clarify this in due course.
Will lecturers be given the flexibility to use programs and online platforms that learners are familiar with to improve engagement and seamless teaching and learning? i.e. WhatsApp and Zoom etc
This would have to be agreed with the individual colleges and would have to be in accordance with the agreed IT policy. The Joint Trade Unions have produced guidance on this alongside Colegau Cymru.